It was a gritty effort by both teams, but in the end, the Brampton Battalion prevailed in the annual New Year’s Eve Battle of Peel.
Playing without a couple of key forwards in Barclay Goodrow and Jamie Lewis, the host Battalion broke open a close game in the third period to register a 5-2 victory over the Mississauga Steelheads in Ontario Hockey League action this afternoon at the Powerade Centre in Brampton.
It was a gritty performance from the Battalion, who lost the club’s leading scorer in Goodrow as well as Lewis during in Sunday afternoon’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Steelheads at the Hershey Centre. Goodrow suffered a shoulder injury when he crashed into the boards and Lewis was rocked in a mid-ice collision and left the game.
“We have to be gritty,” said coach Stan Butler of the Battalion, who improved to 19-14-6 on the season and pulled three points ahead of fourth-place Mississauga in the OHL’s Central Division standings by picking up five of a possible six points in the last three games.
“That’s the type of team we are,” said Butler. “I think we have a lot of skill going forward. When we lost (Derek) Froats for the year with a wrist injury, we decided that rather than go out and pay a heavy price for an over-ager, we would be better off using our young guys, get them some ice time and take it from there.”
The New Year’s Eve game, the final one at the Powerade Centre since the Brampton franchise is moving to North Bay for the 2013-14 season, was much closer than the score would indicate, given that the Battalion scored a pair of empty-net goals in the last minute of the game.
“I thought it was a pretty even hockey game,” said Mississauga coach James Boyd, who had six regulars out of his line-up. “They (Brampton) got some breaks. We made a couple of mental mistakes and they capitalized. That pretty much was the game.”
Brampton was clinging to a 3-2 lead to start the third period and it stayed that way, primarily because of the work of Mississauga goaltender Spencer Martin and Brampton netminder Jake Smith.
Martin was strong throughout the game, stopping 33 of 36 shots. Smith, who has a 4-1-1 record since he replaced regular starter Matej Machovsky in mid-December, turned aside 25 Mississauga shots.
“I thought both goalies were exceptional today,” said Boyd. “Jake Smith made a couple of big stops toward the end of the game when we were pressing.”
Indeed, the Steelheads applied a lot of pressure on the Battalion with about two minutes remaining in the third period, hoping to tie the game and force overtime. But, Mississauga was forced to pull Martin in favour of an extra attacker with a little more than a minute left on the clock and that’s when Brampton went to work.
Nick Paul scored two of his three goals into an empty net to put the game well beyond Mississauga’s reach. His first goal of the game came early in the second and put the Battalion ahead 2-1.
“It was a hard game right up until the last couple of minutes,” said Paul, who increased his goal output to 10 on the season. “We’ve got a pretty good team here right now. We’ve got a lot of confidence and that’s going to help us down the stretch.”
Rookie Blake Clarke had the other two goals for the Battalion. Stuart Percy and Riley Brace scored for Mississauga.